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When I was pregnant with my first child, countless women informed me that parenting was the hardest thing they’d ever done. Some would take it a step further; “You’ll never sleep again!” they’d warn. I’d laugh uneasily, not quite sure how to respond. I always wondered, “Are they trying to make me feel better or trying to make me change my mind about having this baby?!” It seemed odd that all they had to offer me were words of doom and gloom.
The words of “counsel” only continued once the baby came. Well-meaning strangers in the grocery store would point to my (apparently under-dressed) baby and say “What are you thinking taking that baby out in this weather? She’s going to catch a cold! You should have a hat and mittens on her!” I would nod and thank them. Then, the rest of the grocery trip I would wonder if I was really an inept mother, incapable of properly dressing my child. By the time I arrived at the check-out line, another mother had more advice. “Enjoy her now. She’ll be nothing but a pain when she starts talking.”
The flurry of off-hand comments snowballed into an avalanche of fear and anxiety. What I needed was an older mother to assure me in my nervousness. To help me learn to lean on my faith in Christ rather than on myself or empty words of despair.
Identifying the Problem
Sometimes I think there must be a Scare Tactic School some women enroll in after their kids have grown up, where they learn specific scare tactics to use whenever they come in contact with young mothers. In this school they teach ladies how to freak out poor innocent young moms, intimidate them into thinking they’ll never make it through parenting, and then leave them feeling generally discouraged. Here are some of the scare tactics I’ve seen graduates of this class employ:
1. You must only have (one kid, a baby, a girl, a boy, etc.)
2. You think that’s bad? My kids did (Fill in something much worse.)
3. That’s just because you never had kids like mine.
4. You’ll understand when (Fill in the situation.)
And then, there’s my personal favorite:
5. Just Wait: Just wait until your kids (Fill in the blank). Then you’ll really understand.
As followers of Christ, we must learn to recognize these careless, idle words and their potential to frighten us into a place of fear or despair. Though they are perhaps offered as lighthearted banter and may be unintentionally hurtful, they often lead to parenting anxiety.
Instead of resting in the provision the Lord has offered you for this season of life, you might begin to fear seasons of parenthood further down the line. Instead of thanking the Lord for your children’s successes, you begin to worry about potential struggles. Instead of trusting the Holy Spirit for wisdom in parenting your children, you doubt your ability to listen to His voice. Instead of delighting in the process, you worry over the outcome.
Perhaps you’ve been a victim of a scare tactic. Perhaps you’ve employed them. Either way, it’s time to fight back and stop giving into the common worldly rhetoric that’s tearing down mothers everywhere. Instead, let’s engage in encouraging one another in the Lord. Let’s remind one another of the good news of the gospel: that our parenting victories or failures are not what earn us acceptance before God (Isaiah 64:6).
It is only through Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death can we find forgiveness for our sins before our Holy God (Romans 3:22). Salvation through Christ will free both you to walk out this parenting journey by faith in His leading, trusting Him for the results. Because God is faithful and good to his children, you don’t have to worry that you are not a “good enough” parent. You can trust God’s kindness and mercy to provide for you and your child, filling in where you are weak (1 Corinthians 4:10). When you trust God, you don’t have to fear empty words of warning from the masses.
God’s faithfulness is evident throughout the generations (Psalm 100:5), recorded in the pages of Scripture. His faithfulness to those who love Him, will continue throughout their parenting years and for the years to come (Psalm 119:90). God’s plans for you, your children, and your family are trustworthy. If you love Him, He is working for your good (Romans 8:28), sanctifying you even when things are hard, and using every trial to bind you closer to Him.
In light of God’s mercy, I pray as my children grow I will avoid using scare tactics on young moms around me. Instead, I want to offer words of grace and encouragement. Instead of panic and dread, I want to offer Christ and Hs sacrifice for sinners like me. I want to offer the same grace and mercy I have received. Instead of offering scare tactics, I want to offer tactics for cultivating faith in Christ.
“Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for consider what great thing he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24
Which group are you a member of? Are you a mom who’s often intimidated by the comments of others? Or, are you a graduate of The Scare Tactic School? How can you use your words to bring life, hope, and ultimately Christ, to other moms in your path?
Lindsey Carlson lives in Houston, Texas with her winsome-worship-pastor-husband and their four young and busy children. She enjoys giggling with her littles, dating her husband, deep talks with sweet friends, and laughing really loud. Lindsey loves to challenge believers to define their worship as more than songs on Sunday morning. She writes on living the new song of the gospel at Worship Rejoices.